Focal Point

Focal Point: Is Flatscreen AR Really AR?

Focal Point: Is Flatscreen AR Really AR?

We ask our industry panel - the brightest and sharpest VR professionals from around the world - one question about the XR industry, business, technology or trending stories every week.

Question: With all the buzz about Apple and ARKit launching this autumn, is AR on a flatscreen really AR at all?


ARKit and the ubiquity of iOS devices will open new ways to AR.
Thomas Bidaux

Thomas Bidaux, CEO at ICO Partners 

“Augmented Reality, as a notion, is very wide. We tend to stick to our visual sense when discussing new technologies, because this is the more solicited of all, but I would argue that applications like GeoTourist, providing audio guide based on your real world location, are augmenting your reality very efficiently.

“In many ways, what makes Pokemon Go an Augmented Reality game is the use of the geo-location, not the gimmicky visual overlay of the creature in the real world. If anything, I hope that the development of AR projects will move away from seeing this as what AR is about. The launch of ARKit should prove this.

"We will see a slew of apps and games just adding a 3D model on your table. That will get old very quick (I’d argue, it already is). But with a wide distribution, I really think that clever use of the ARKit and the ubiquity of iOS devices will lead to new experiences that open new ways to Augment Reality.”

AR extends beyond the visual with apps such as GeoTourist.

ARKit is a crucial stepping stone towards AR as part of everyday life.
Nils von Heijne

Nils von Heijne, Creative Director and Co-Founder at SVRVIVE Studios 

“The question of flatscreen AR being real AR or not, is not at all what's interesting about ARKit. ARKit is a crucial stepping stone towards a world where AR is part of everyday life. It’s bound to be the first global mass adoption of immersive media and it will then naturally evolve into glasses, contacts and at some point it will probably be wired into our brains.

"It doesn't matter if ARKit fits a made up definition of what AR is. What matters is if it will open up the door for a future built around AR or not. I believe it will.”

Smartphone AR will be the first global mass adoption of immersive media.

AR on a flatscreen is a great point of entry, an ‘MVP’ to get people to use it.
Samuel Huber

Samuel Huber, CEO at Advir 

“The problem that VR faces now is that barriers to entry are very high, with the need to educate yourself around the hardware to buy, how to set it up etc. AR will not have this problem, because everyone has a smartphone. By updating your OS, you get access to AR. This is why AR will spread much quicker than VR - because barriers to entry are small for users to try it.

“So, AR on a flatscreen is a great point of entry, an ‘MVP’ [Minimum Viable Proposition] to get people to use it. However, its benefits will be limited until we go through the ‘4th transformation’ as Robert Scoble calls it: the transition from handsets to headsets. Only then will AR change from a gimmick to a commodity with high utility - when data is overlaid on top of the real world without a device screen in between.”

Flatscreen AR apps like Pokemon GO are a great point of entry.

I won't be satisfied until I've got a HUD inside my specs overlaying the real world seamlessly with data.
Dave Bradley

Dave Bradley, COO at Steel Media 

"There is a genuine problem with terminology in our business. People say VR when they mean 360-degree video, for instance. People say AR when they mean mobile phone games that use the camera and location data to deliver an enhanced experience. They're not strictly wrong, but this lack of clarity means we can lose sight of the true potential of the technology.

“All of these experiences only reach their pinnacle when they are truly immersive, synthetic and interactive. The kind of genuine AR this industry is shooting for long-term is going to be way beyond the hokey fun of Pokemon GO. HoloLens and that Apple patent for glasses show us what could be possible. I won't be satisfied until I've got a HUD inside my specs overlaying the real world seamlessly with data."

Apple's recently published patent shows a glasses and iPhone hardware combo.

Most financial analysts are not convinced that AR will be a breakthrough category for Apple in the short-term.
Jonathan Wagstaff

Jonathan Wagstaff, Group Business Intelligence Manager at Exertis 

“The success of Pokémon GO was as much to do with the geographic and exploratory/territorial aspects, as it was with AR. Some users (myself included) found the AR component of swiping at critters to catch them on touchscreens to become a chore after a while, but enjoyed having something fun to do on evening walks home through the park. The more advanced demos coming out of ARKit like Trixi Studio’s version of ‘Take On Me’ are in another league.

“Regardless of whether Apple’s prototype glasses device uses images displayed on LCD/OLED screens, or projections superimposed over a transparent lens a la Holoens, it will still require a real-world image to augment in real-time, with gyroscopic interaction. Most financial analysts are not convinced that AR will be a breakthrough category for Apple in the short-term, with the iPhone 8 itself being their next big launch and revenue driver, instead seeing AR as a longer-term investment for Apple and another string to the ecosystem’s bow.”

More advanced ARKit demos such as Trixi's Take On Me are in another league to Pokemon GO.


Steve is an award-winning editor and copywriter with 20 years’ experience specialising in consumer technology and video games. He was part of a BAFTA nominated developer studio as project manager for the UK’s first fully interactive digital TV channel. In addition to editing, Steve contributes to, and, as well as creating marketing content for a range of SMEs and agencies.


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